Sustainable farming initiative underway in Northland

The first group of Northland farmers have started working with mentor farmers to raise their on-farm productivity, sustainability and profit as part of the Extension 350 initiative, reports the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Extension 350 is an initiative funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), Northland Regional Council, DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb New Zealand. The farmer led, farmer-focused mentoring and extension programme aims to work with 350 Northland farms within 5 years to improve their on-farm performance and environmental sustainability.

Two dairy clusters and one sheep and beef cluster, consisting of 5 farmers each, have been set up. Each cluster runs for 3 years. 4 more clusters are planned for 2018, with another 3 in 2019.

“Extension 350 will influence local pastoral farmers to perform better and any improvement in profitability has the scale to make a significant economic impact in the Northland community,” says Ben Dalton, Head of the Regional Growth Programme at MPI. “Research shows farmers accept advice much more readily from successful farmers and Extension 350 builds on previous similar initiatives aimed at farm transformation.

“Being profitable allows farmers the flexibility to make decisions that support longer-term goals for on-farm improvements, debt repayment, managing succession and improving their livelihood,” he said.

Ken Hames, Extension 350 Steering Group chairperson said pastoral farming was a billion dollar industry in Northland. “The region has approximately 2,000 pastoral farmers however studies and industry benchmarking has shown there’s room for Northland’s pastoral sector to improve based on the levels of resources and the high numbers employed in the sector there,” he said.

Extension 350 is part of the government’s Regional Growth Programme. The programme is co-led by the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and aims to increase jobs, income and investment in regional New Zealand.

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